Eating songbird and pigeon meat, songbird and pigeon dishes, pigeon and bacon recipe. Extreme cuisine.

I am a lark by nature and usually get up before dawn. On the morning of my first day in Hanoi, I noticed a strange thing: no bird voices were heard. I looked out the window of my hotel room – not a single bird or pigeon. Well, I thought, probably such an area. 

Eating songbird and pigeon meat, songbird and pigeon dishes, pigeon and bacon recipe. Extreme cuisine.

Throughout the day, I continued to look out for birds and pigeons in the trees and on the pavements – all in vain. Towards evening, I asked someone from the locals why birds were not visible in Hanoi. We ate them, ”the woman answered casually..

, in other places during the famine, people ate bark, grass, and anything else they could find. When I arrived in Hanoi, in 1992, the country had just recovered from the embargo imposed by the United States. In the twenty-year period of action of which in Vietnam there was an acute shortage of food, and indeed almost everything that is necessary for life. No wonder the Vietnamese ate birds.

Fortunately, the story had a happy ending. Today, most Hanoi residents have enough food, the birds have returned, and my subsequent awakenings in this city were no different from others in other cities in the world. At the same time, Hanoi remains a city where in many restaurants you can order a delicious first of pigeon meat or various small pichugs, which are often bred on special farms. From the crisis menu, birds migrated to everyday.

A slightly different story is connected with Cyprus, where every year millions of songbirds were killed, not out of necessity, but for the sake of tradition. These small birds called abelopulia on the island were caught during their rest during the flight from the European continent to North Africa and offered in hundreds of taverns as a delicacy. On the streets, birds — plucked, fried, salted — were usually sold in cans, and ate whole, with the exception of the beak. According to ornithologists, up to 20 million birds completed their trip every year in traps, and as a result, a law was passed that, under pain of criminal prosecution, prohibits the use of ambelopulia for food.

In vain one of the opponents of the law asked.

Didn’t you watch a movie about Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor? After all, there is mentioned about the salty ambelopulia from Cyprus, which were sent as a gift to both Rome and Alexandria. Do you really have no respect for tradition??

For millennia, poultry farmers have provided both gourmets and ordinary peasants with a wide range of birds, famous not only for their beauty and singing, but also for the juiciness of their meat. The ancient Greeks hunted forest pigeons, jackdaws, owls and gulls, imported flamingos from Africa. The Romans, before frying the boar, stuffed it with blackbirds. In France of the 16th century, pigeons were eaten along with other wild birds (for example, Curlew and white herons); as the gastronomic Laruss writes, pigeons were valued by some above beef, veal and pork. Tits, lapwings, warblers, curlews, plovers, blackbirds, robins, finches, sparrows, larks and jays were considered excellent food throughout Europe.

Many people know the poem that came to us from the 19th century about four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. Even a noisy crow fell into soup and stews. Perhaps this was what inspired Tokyo Mayor Shintaro Ishiharu in 2000 to suggest that Japanese citizens reduce the number of ravens by eating them. By far, the most popular edible bird has always been large game birds: herons, ducks, pheasants, black grouse, and of smaller ones, quail and partridge. But the songbirds, which are akin to those who did not meet with their whistles and trills, the Hanoi dawn a few years ago, have long been considered worthy of the European table. Even today they are readily eaten in many parts of the world..

In rural areas of Southeast Asia, small birds with shiny gray plumage, representatives of the order of passerines, which are numerous in rice fields, are fried to a crunch on an open fire and eaten in one or two meals along with paws and a head. In 1995, a group of Australian Aborigines revived the centuries-old tradition of catching yollah birds. In the five weeks during which the season lasts, they catch them up to a million. The meat of these birds goes to the manufacture of a wide variety of products – from pills to pastes.

Around the same time, 400 blue peacocks were presented to the press in a private company in Yunnan, China. Entrepreneurs announced their intention to bring the number of these birds to 20 thousand by 1999 and the orientation of the business on gourmets. In Spain and other Mediterranean countries, boys still catch birds, and then old women dressed in black sell them in bundles at the entrance to the villages.

If birds are cooked with fragrant spices that they love so much on the shores of the Mediterranean, ”writes Elizabeth Luard in her European rural cuisine,“ the difference in taste and aroma between wild and domestic birds is small.

Luard wrote about quails, but she had in mind blackbirds when she included in the book recipes for Grilled Small Birds, Small Bird Stew and Small Bird Pate. By her own admission, the substitution is due to the fact that in the UK, where her book was supposed to be published, thrushes are protected species. In other European countries and in North America, these birds live in abundance. They are usually caught with the help of cells or simply lured with grain when they molt and cannot fly. Thrushes are prepared in the same way as tetrapods, but not fresh, but only plucked immediately before cooking.

The popular culinary TV host Fred Smith, nicknamed Thrifty Gourmet, especially warns those who eat a black raven about the danger of infection, as well as lice and ticks, he strongly recommends boiling this bird, and not only her, but also old gray ravens , blackbirds and parrots. As for young individuals, they can be stuffed with herbs and fruits and fry. According to Smith, fish-eating birds should not be stored for more than one day, and to get rid of the smell of fish, it’s better to get fresh.

The meat of many birds has a taste of what they eat, and therefore the tender bird flesh can be with the aroma of juniper berries, grapes or fruits. All these birds can be cooked in the same way as thrushes and partridges: fry over an open fire, fry in butter (and serve on pilaf), stew after frying with grapes. Stuff with ham, truffles, minced meat, chicken liver or some mixture of them and fry on skewers, simmer and glaze. Make aspic; bake and sprinkle with cognac before serving, make a light paste; bake pies with them; bake in clay coating.

Of all the species of small birds, perhaps the most commonly used pigeons. This is probably explained by their multiplicity and wide distribution area. Pigeon stews were popular in Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, where cooks first cut the wings of birds or broke their legs and fed them with chewed bread. In France, during the reign of Louis XIV, braised dovecote with peas was in fashion. For the usual menu of the inhabitants of Europe and America in the 18th-19th centuries, Pigeons in a pot, a kind of casserole, as well as Palpatun, or papton made of pigeons, something similar to a hot paste, are more characteristic.

Pigeons bred for a month – they are called squabs – can be bought at bird markets in major cities in Asia, where they are often sold alive. In his book, Ingredients of Asian Cuisine, Bruce Coast notes that plucking them is a tedious task, since scalding with boiling water does not make their feathers, unlike chicken, more pliable. The author advises placing the bird in the refrigerator for several hours. Cold will reduce the elasticity of her skin and make it easier for the cook.

After evisceration and butchering, the pigeons can be seasoned with spices and roasted over an open fire or in a pan, or cooked in a Chinese style — steamed or roasted like a duck. Weighing about 450 grams, Kost continues, this bird has the perfect size and, often, the taste of a Cornish wild chicken. The Oxford Culinary Guide recommends that when frying a pigeon on a spit or grill, cover the breast of a bird with strips of bacon.

Elizabeth Luard pays tribute to the talent of Belgian vegetable growers, and in particular, mentions Brussels sprouts and Belgian chicory as evidence of their accomplishments. Nevertheless, the reader did not owe the appearance of a recipe for cooking pigeon meat with vegetables to the successes of Belgian gardeners, but their eternal struggle against those whom they consider harmful seed thieves. Eggs of pigeons are highly valued, but they are also expensive. Those wishing to feast on them may have to order them in advance (they rarely appear in stores). No less expensive are the eggs for the birds themselves, laying only a couple a year (if both disappear, the little dove may stop flying at all).

Like the eggs of other small birds, such as partridges, pigeon eggs are usually hard boiled and included in more complex dishes. And the last thing about the pigeons. These birds, which inhabit many cities of the planet and are sometimes referred to as flying rats, can be classified, like birds of post-war Hanoi, as a strategic reserve. In 1996, there was a small scandal in London caused by the disappearance from Trafalgar Square, directly from under the nose at the statue of Admiral Nelson, more than a thousand pigeons. The birds hustling around the stately pedestal of the illustrious warrior were as much an indispensable part of London life as the crows on the walls of the Tower.

As it turned out, two attackers raked birds in heaps of thirty to forty individuals and were taken somewhere in a large box. One of the abductors, seventeen-year-old Jason Leadbury, after his arrest, said that he had caught at least 1,500 pigeons in different parts of London in such a manner for six months. He sold them for three dollars per bird. To restaurants? God forbid! Its buyers were ordinary amateur pigeon houses – there are thousands of them in England.

Pigeons grown for restaurants on special farms are, of course, more well-fed and cleaner. When cooked skillfully, their meat to taste is a cross between chicken and fish. The ones I ate in Asia were fried to a crispy golden crust while preserving enough subcutaneous fat to make the meat juicy. By the way, it was surprisingly a lot (I also ate other small birds that looked more like dried mummies), and fragrant enough to convince me of not using hormonal products, the widespread use of which led to the appearance in many markets of large but tasteless chickens.

Pigeon and Bacon Recipe.

4 young pigeons.
50 g butter.
Salt pepper.
Savory mountain.
100 g fat bacon.
250 g small onions.
250 g carrots.
500 g small potatoes.
1 small head of cauliflower.

Pinching, gutting and drying pigeon carcasses. Put in each piece of oil, rub it with salt, pepper and finely chopped savory. Dice the bacon and put in a saucepan, drain the fat. Meanwhile, peel and chop large onions (small can be cooked whole). Peel and slice the carrots, peel the potatoes. Disassemble cabbage for inflorescences. Heat the oven to 190 degrees. Flip pigeons several times in boiled fat.

Arrange all vegetables around them and add 2 tbsp. tablespoons of water. Salt, pepper, lightly sprinkle with chopped savory. Bring fat to a boil quickly again. Cover the dishes tightly, covering the lid with flour diluted in water – steam should not escape from under the lid. Simmer in the oven for an hour. Raise the lid already on the table. Undoubtedly, gardeners will be able to enjoy revenge. No additions to the dish, except good Belgian beer, are required..

Based on the book Extreme Cuisine.
Jerry Hopkins.

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